Recently I received an email from a local woman asking for help identifying an old bell with some strange letters. She states quite simply, “I have an old bell with these letters RC&BRR. Can you give me any information on this?” Right away I recognized those letters…
Nearly 100 years before Judy Garland sang her memorable trolley bell tune, the Rochester City & Brighton Railroad Company (RC&BRR) was operating horse-drawn trolleys – or technically, horse-drawn streetcars – in Rochester across 9 miles of track. These beautiful work-horses clip-clopped up and down our cobblestone streets from the 1860’s until Rochester Railway Co. took over the operation in 1890 and replaced the horsecars with new electric cars.
I had to see this bell; and so I asked her to send me a photo of it (see above). Yup. Looks like the real deal to me. It’s missing the little leather strap but other than that it appears to be of the very same variety as the one attached to the horse’s neck in this old photo…
Horsecar, or trolley bells were attached to the bridle of the horse to both announce the arrival of the vehicle and to warn pedestrians to steer clear. The bells are all brass or bronze and many were unmarked.
Unfortunately she has no idea how her family acquired this amazing little artifact. She just knows it has been in her father’s family for as long as she can remember. And, sadly, her father and all of his siblings have passed on.
What I’d like to know is how many more of these there are out there. The streetcar shown in the photo above was later added to the collection of the Transportation Museum in Henrietta. I wonder if they have the bell?
Here is one I found on eBay from NYC’s 3rd Ave. R.R. CO. It sold for $170.
And no… she has no intention of selling hers. Though, if you happen to have any additional information on these bells, please leave a comment below. Your tip just might help our bell owner trace its history.
Tags: horsecar, old photos of Rochester, Rochester City and Brighton Railroad Company (RC&BRR), Rochester history, rochester photos, streetcar, transit, transportation, trolley, vintage, vintage trolley bell
This entry was posted on Friday, July 8th, 2011 at 10:43 pm and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Train/Railroad Stuff. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.